The largest land acquisition in Columbia Land Trust’s nearly 30-year history is a done deal.
On Tuesday, the nonprofit organization finalized the purchase of 4,900 acres along the Klickitat River Canyon in Yakima County for $8.9 million.
The purchase completes the nearly 11,000-acre Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area, and marks the final step in a 12-year process of planning, research, fundraising and partnerships, according to a land trust press release.
The land trust purchased the land from SDS Lumber Co., a privately owned timber company based in Bingen.
Cherie Kearney, the trust’s forest conservation director, said the partnership is a powerful sign of how a land conservation group could work with a timber company for the good of the environment.
“We are excited to help make the vision of the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area possible,” said SDS Lumber CEO Jason Spadaro. “It shows how working together and partnerships can create a legacy that present and future generations will enjoy.”
The goal of the Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area is to preserve the habitat, natural resources, wildlife and to work on the land to make it more climate resilient to protect wildlife in the long run. Kearney said limited forestry operations will take place.
The canyon area is surrounded by ancestral lands of the Yakama people, and was developed with support from the Yakama Nation, Kearney said.
“The Klickitat River is Washington state’s longest wild river, a third of which lies within the Yakama Nation reservation,” Phil Rigdon, the superintendent with Yakama Nation Natural Resources, said in a prepared statement. “It is an essential artery that supports our culture and way of life. … It is important to share the understanding of the importance of enhancing and protecting these aquatic and ecological places because a watershed like the Klickitat is the last of its kind.”
Kearney said the landscape includes pine forests, oak woodlands, basalt cliffs, and grasslands. It provides habitat to mule deer, black bears, golden eagles, flammulated owls and mountain goats.
“It’s a real breadth of species,” Kearney said. “That’s increasingly rare.”
According to the press release, the latest phase of the conservation effort was made possible through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, The Conservation Alliance, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America program and by individual contributions.
The conservation area will continue to offer public access to recreation, including angling, hunting, paddling, wildlife watching and sightseeing.
“It’s a really special place,” Kearney said.